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Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 2 May 2006


Climate Change

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the impact of climate change on UK agriculture. [65750]

Mr. Morley: The UK climate impacts programme is conducting ongoing work to provide scenarios to show how our climate might change and co-ordinating research on dealing with our future climate. This includes work on climate change impacts on the agriculture sector.

Research suggests that climate change impacts do not appear to threaten the viability of the agriculture industry as a whole in the UK due to the adaptability of UK systems., However, individual agricultural businesses and land managers will need to be alive to the need to adapt.

The UK national adaptation policy framework is currently being developed. It will help to provide a more strategic approach to adaptation, identifying key risks and opportunities common across a number of policy areas and to coordinate approaches where possible. The first phase of the framework will be structured on a sectoral basis, and these sectors will include agriculture, horticulture and forestry as well as water resources, biodiversity and nature conservation.

The new UK climate change programme 2006 has also assessed the role of agriculture in addressing climate change and seeks to raise awareness of the issues across the sector and develop measures to allow the sector to play a full part in tackling climate change.

We have an ongoing programme of research to provide a robust evidence base to support our policy development on climate change impacts and adaptation in agriculture. A project of particular relevance is CC0366: Publication of outputs arising from Defra research on impacts and adaptation in the agricultural sector", which can be found at: http://www2.defra.gov.uk/research/project_data/More.asp?l=CC0366&M=K WS&V=cc03&SUBMIT1=Se arch&SCOPE=0.

Our report Climate change and agriculture in the United Kingdom" also provides information on the new climatic and market conditions that may be experienced and enables farmers to consider strategies that will maintain or enhance their ability to anticipate climate change in their decision-making and take steps to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. The report can be found on Defra's website at: http://www.defra.gov.uk/environ/climate/climatechange/index.htm.
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Air Quality (Bexley)

Mr. Evennett: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent assessment she has made of air quality in the London borough of Bexley. [65681]

Mr. Bradshaw: Local authorities have a duty under Part IV of the Environment Act 1995 to review and assess the current, and likely future, air quality in their areas. Where local authorities consider that one or more of the nationally prescribed air quality objectives for each of the seven pollutants is unlikely to be met by the relevant deadline, they must declare an air quality management area (AQMA), covering the area where the problem is expected. These local authorities must then take action, along with other agencies and organisations, to work towards meeting the air quality objectives. The Mayor has responsibility for ensuring the local air quality management regime is undertaken appropriately by London boroughs.

Following the first round of reviews and assessments, the London borough of Bexley declared an air quality management area in respect of Particulate (PM10), in the Manor road area, in August 2001. In fulfilment of its obligations under Part IV of the Environmental Protection Act, Bexley carried out a further assessment of existing, and likely future, air quality within the AQMA in the borough, and submitted a report to my Department in May 2003 and the Mayor of London in March 2003. The report concluded that the air quality management area as declared was still justified.

The council consulted my Department on its draft plan in July 2003, and the Mayor of London in June 2003. The Greater London Authority has asked Bexley to provide an update on its action plan.

The last round of reviews and assessments started in 2003 and London boroughs had to submit their updating and screening assessments (USA) by December 2003. They were expected to submit either a detailed assessment, where further investigation was required, or a progress report by December 2004. The London borough of Bexley submitted its USA to my Department in September 2004, and the Mayor of London in October 2004. The conclusion was that further investigation (detailed assessment) was needed at Manor road in respect of the likely exceedences of nitrogen dioxide and PM10 objectives. The Department is still awaiting a report on its detailed assessment of air quality.

The next round of review and assessments has now started and local authorities are asked to submit a new updating and screening assessment by the end of April 2006, which will be considered by my officials. My Department will be assessing the London borough of Bexley's report as part of this exercise.

Badger Body Snares

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) whether her Department has begun field trials of badger body snares. [64938]
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(2) when her Department's study of badger body snares is scheduled to end; and when its conclusions will be made available to the public. [64941]

Mr. Bradshaw: Field trials of badger body snares have not yet begun.

If the body snares are found to be humane in pen trials currently being undertaken, a licence will be sought to conduct field trials to determine the effectiveness, utility, non-target risk and humaneness of the body snare under normal operating conditions.

The pen trials are expected to finish by May this year and, subject to the results of those trials and the securing of an appropriate licence, field trials should be completed before the end of June. The results of the field trials will be made public, after peer review, shortly after.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what frequency of inspections will be studied in her Department's study of badger body snares; [64939]

(2) what behavioural and physical data will be collected in her Department's study of badger body snares. [64940]

Mr. Bradshaw: The Department is currently undertaking an assessment of the humaneness, efficacy and non-target risks of a body snare specifically designed to restrain badgers.

The trials are initially being undertaken in captivity—pen trials—under Home Office licence with continuous observation by researchers. This ensures that if any animal is injured during capture immediate assessment and, if necessary, intervention can occur. In the absence of such signs the animals are restrained for a maximum of eight hours. At the end of the restraint period the badgers are examined for injuries by a veterinary surgeon. They are then held for a further four days and re-examined by a veterinary surgeon for signs of any sub-dermal damage—necrosis—before release back to the wild. The available evidence is reviewed after each trial to determine whether further studies should proceed.

The aim is to release all animals back to the wild unharmed within a maximum period of 10 days following initial capture. Advice from veterinary surgeons and badger experts is that removing the badger from its home territory for this length of time should not affect the social structure of the family group.

If the humaneness of the body snare is found to be acceptable in these pen trials, then field trials will be conducted to confirm its humaneness and to assess effectiveness, utility and non-target risks. It is anticipated that body snares will be inspected approximately every four hours during such trials.

Bovine Tuberculosis

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what response her Department has had from veterinary surgeons on their willingness to undertake pre-movement checking of cattle for bovine TB. [66413]

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Mr. Bradshaw: An independent review of veterinary capacity and preparedness was carried out prior to the implementation of pre-movement testing in England. The review surveyed local veterinary inspectors' (LVI) in high incidence areas in England. The review found that most LVIs had a good general awareness of the new requirements and felt they would be able to respond to and meet the expected demand for testing. The full report can be found on the DEFRA website at: www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/tb/premovement/report.pdf

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the forecast annual cost is arising from the decision by her Department to pay for one pre-movement bovine tuberculosis test. [66626]

Mr. Bradshaw: Based on 2005 monthly cattle movement data and assuming cattle are tested in groups of 20, the maximum cost to Government of paying for all pre-movement testing to the end of June is estimated at £714,000.

However, as Government support is limited to one test per herd owner, and as the figure does not take account of herd owners who use their routine herd test, the actual costs to Government will be lower. These transitional support arrangements end on 30 June 2006.

Michael Jabez Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will put the evidence accumulated from Government sponsored cattle post-mortems in cases of suspected bovine tuberculosis in the public domain to facilitate the tracing of the source of the infection. [64928]

Mr. Bradshaw: Each month Defra publishes provisional cumulative data on the total number of TB cases identified at slaughterhouses and reported to the State Veterinary Service (SVS), along with the number of slaughterhouse cases that have been confirmed by visible lesion or laboratory culture. The data form part of Defra's regular TB statistics report, which is available on the Defra website at: http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/tb/stats/latest.htm.

All slaughterhouse cases notified by the Meat Hygiene Service are subject to traceback investigations by the SVS, and have samples taken that are fast-tracked to the Veterinary Laboratories Agency for histology and culture. Where Mycobacterium bovis infection is confirmed, the molecular typing data derived from those tests are used by the SVS to identify the origin of the infection.

A summary of the culture results from individual slaughterhouse cases identified in 2005 will be included in the Chief Veterinary Officer's annual report, which will be published later this year.

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